Being smack-dab in the California coast, San Jose is close enough to Mexico to reap some of its tasty cuisine. Gourmet and street-food dishes central to Mexican culture can be found at countless San Jose Mexican restaurants, though it’s the following eateries that elevate the classics to another echelon.
1. Mezcal’s Mole NegroIf you’re looking for some of the best Mexican food in San Jose, consider the authentic Oaxacan dishes at Mezcal, which packs its menu with regional street foods like memelitas and—for the culinarily curious—sautéed grasshoppers. But Mezcal’s true speciality is mole, a rich Mexican sauce that combines chilis, nuts, seeds, veggies, and chocolate. Served over chicken with rice and handmade corn tortillas, the complex mole is not only the star of this dish but also of Mezcal’s entire menu.
2. Mariscos La Costa’s Shrimp and Octopus CevicheMariscos La Costa’s humble beginnings hark back to a catering truck in a parking lot, but the East San Jose restaurant has blossomed into a go-to spot for fresh Mexican cuisine. And fresh is key when we’re talking about ceviche, a South American dish with marinated raw seafood. La Costa’s focus is on shrimp and octopus, served over fresh vegetables and a flat tortilla shell.
3. The Tamale Factory’s TamalesWell, it wouldn’t be called The Tamale Factory if it wasn’t the speciality, right? Simple and traditional, these tamales are handmade from scratch by owner Claudia Lopez, who’s been in the tamale game since age 19.
4. Taqueria Tlaquepaque’s ChimichangaTaqueria Tlaquepaque offers a variety of Mexican standards, but the chimichanga leads the pack. A golden-brown shell, perfectly cooked, sheathes the restaurant’s chimichangas, which are served with rich sour cream, rice, and beans. Chase it with refreshing chavelas—Mexican beer with lemon and a salted rim—served in frosted mugs.5. Mexico Bakery’s Milanesa TortaTortas are ideal for those reticent to leave the bun, as they’re Mexico’s spin on the traditional sandwich. The milanesa can be found at this charming local bakery, where cooks layer breaded steak, jalapeños, tomatoes, sliced avocado, and cheese between two fresh-baked buns.